Tel Aviv (AFP) – Australia’s Rohan Dennis took the race leader’s pink jersey off reigning champion Tom Dumoulin as Italy’s Elia Viviani won the Giro d’Italia second stage in Tel Aviv on Saturday.
Dennis claimed three bonus seconds in an intermediate sprint earlier on the 167-kilometre stage from Haifa to overcome his two-second deficit from Friday’s opening time-trial in Jerusalem.
Race favourite Chris Froome finished safely in the peloton after a bunch sprint in the Mediterranean coastal resort of Tel Aviv.
The 32-year-old Briton was nursing cuts and abrasions to his right-hand side, suffered in a training crash in Jerusalem on Friday.
He had surprisingly lost 37 seconds to Dutchman Dumoulin — his chief rival for overall victory — in the race against the clock, later admitting he had been riding in pain.
On Saturday, Olympic omnium champion Viviani, 29, seemed to have left his charge to the line quite late but burst through from well behind to emerge from the back wheel of Irishman Sam Bennett and surge to victory.
“The win, everyone was expecting but doing it is never easy,” Viviani, who won his second stage at the Giro, told Eurosport.
“I was really nervous this morning, I tried to overcome a bit this emotion but it’s not easy.”
Italian Jakub Mareczko was second with Bennet taking third.
Dennis, 27, had edged out Viviani at an intermediate sprint 91km into the stage to claim the three bonus seconds he needed to take the race lead.
“I think Viviani, he sprinted but he didn’t go full,” admitted Dennis.
“It was good to see him get the stage win after not giving it to me, but he was kind let’s be honest!”
Dennis has now worn the leader’s jersey at all three Grand Tours, following opening stage success at the Tour de France in 2015 and last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
An earlier three-man break was gobbled up as Dennis’s BMC team tried to get their man into a position to contest the intermediate sprint.
Dennis now leads by one second from Dumoulin with Belgian Victor Campenaerts third at 3sec.
Canadian Guillaume Boivin attacked again in the final 60km but had been caught long before the final 10km as the sprinters’ teams left nothing to chance.